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Food firm’s safety neglect led to woman’s injury

Date:
17 October 2013

An international food manufacturer has been fined after a production worker lost the tip of a finger in an unguarded dough-proving machine at a pizza factory in Harrow.

Fifty-eight year-old Sushila Patel had the top of a middle finger sliced off when she was tasked with picking up dough balls being discarded from a faulty machine.  She needed treatment at the Royal Free Hospital, and her middle finger is now shorter and causes pain and numbness.

Bakkavor Foods Ltd., which operates across the UK, Europe, Asia and North America, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after safety failings were identified at the Bakkavor Pizza factory following the incident on 22 August 2012.

Westminster Magistrates heard (16 Oct) that Mrs Patel, from Harrow, had started work on the late shift in a bakery at the premises in Christchurch Avenue, Harrow. As line leader, she undertook technical and quality control checks and covered for staff absences.

During her shift, she was asked to pick up dough balls that kept dropping out of the prover machine because of an on-going fault. A guard on the machine, which was normally locked, was wide open and at one stage she had to reach inside to pick up the fallen dough balls.

As she did this, her right middle finger became caught between a moving chain and a sprocket, badly slicing the tip.

HSE found that a lockable guard on the machine had been left open, giving no protection to employees using the machine from coming into contact with dangerous moving parts.

Bakkavor Foods Ltd, of West Marsh Road, Spalding, Lincolnshire, was fined £20,000, the maximum fine magistrates were able to impose, and ordered to pay £12,484 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Charles Linfoot said:

“Bakkavor Foods Ltd had a duty to ensure its employees were protected from the dangerous moving parts of the prover machine. The lack of control resulted in an employee suffering a painful and debilitating injury.

“The fact that a lockable guard was removed highlights poor supervision of staff. The incident could have been prevented had the company rectified the machine fault and ensured guarding was effective at all times.

“HSE has been dealing with Bakkavor Foods Ltd regarding management failings in safety in recent years, and has dealt with the company over similar machinery guarding issues at another site.

“Food production has one of the worst safety records within the manufacturing sector. Companies must ensure that machinery is adequately guarded at all times to ensure the risk of contact with moving machinery is minimised.”

In 2011/12 manufacturing accounted for about 10% of the British workforce but recorded 25% of fatalities and 16% of reported injuries to employees, with 31 deaths and nearly 17,500 injuries.

Food manufacture had a rate of reported major injury of almost twice the rate for manufacturing as a whole.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken… to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”

 

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